This article was originally written for the "Type Fun" blog operated by CPA members Oversoul and Al0ysiusHWWW. All such articles archived here were written by one or both of those individuals.
The recent unrestriction of Dream Halls has gotten me thinking about breaking the card again. I've looked around a bit for new Vintage decklists to exploit the card, but so far haven't found anything of particular interest. I do know that it is possible to build a killer combo deck using Dream Halls, even if I'm not sure how much potential the card has in the current Vintage environment. But there are myriad casual decks that could revolve around this card.
The cool thing about Dream Halls is that it circumvents mana cost. Once it's in play, it completely changes the game. There are a few complications in building a combo deck around Dream Halls:
* The deck has to be able to function up to the point when it gets Dream Halls in play. Even though Dream Halls lets you play inordinately expensive spells for no mana, each of those spells is a dead card until Dream Halls is in play.
* The effect of Dream Halls is symmetrical. Your opponent(s) will be able to use it too, often to play a spell that will remove Dream Halls.
* Dream Halls is a card-disadvantage engine. The rest of the deck must be able to compensate for this in some way.
* The color requirement with Dream Halls means that you must use as many spells as possible of the same color.
Each of these are significant hurdles. There are also ways to deal with all of them to some extent. The most effective strategy seems to be to use Dream Halls to accelerate another combo that will actually be used to kill. The Dream Halls deck I once piloted in multiplayer relied on this principle, using Mind over Matter and Mana Vault to pay for Braingeyser.
Dream Halls allowed me to easily play Mind over Matter. Any blue cards became fodder for draw spells and my lands became fodder for Mind over Matter/Mana Vault. All of that mana fueled a large Braingeyser or Stroke of Genius, which drew enough cards to repeat the process and eventually deck my opponent. The multiplayer version was the same, but included Paradigm Shifts in order to keep recycling my spells in order to deck all of my opponents.
But that's probably not what I would go with now. There are plenty of cards to consider with Dream Halls. We do need to be drawing cards, which is why things like Brainstorm, Accumulated Knowledge, and Meditate can be valuable. One of my favorite ways to get card advantage under Dream Halls is Opportunity. The mana cost is intimidating without Dream Halls in play, but under Dream Halls, this card is one of the best spells in the game. It's better than Ancestral Recall. Really, that's the magic of Dream Halls, it makes an obscure card like Opportunity better than Ancestral Recall. If you're planning on killing the opponent with a combo, Meditate fills a similar role and is affordable without Dream Halls in play. But there's a catch: without Dream Halls already in play, getting the kill in the same turn you play Meditate isn't quite as likely, and this makes hardcasting Meditate prohibitive, although it is still an option.
Also appealing are "draw-7" type spells. The most famous might be Timetwister, a power nine card. But blue also has Tinker for Memory Jar (effectively a draw-7), Windfall, and Time Spiral. That last one is particularly impressive with Dream Halls. It has also been unrestricted in Vintage, making it a candidate for inclusion in tournament decks as a 4-of. All of these spells work for refilling your hand, but there is also a major problem with using them. They refill the opponent's hand as well. Time Spiral and Timetwister even give the opponent back his Force of Wills and Mana Drains, which creates some risk. A Dream Halls deck needs to be able to combat countermagic in some way if it's going to be formidable. This can be accomplished with something like Abeyance or City of Solitude, or simply by having more draw spells to play than the opponent can counter. Because I've generally tried to use mono-blue Dream Halls decks, I've pursued the latter.
There are blue options as well though. One option is to pack Force of Will and other countermagic yourself, which leaves fewer slots for draw spells, but has the added benefit of letting you play control until Dream Halls is in play. It also protects Dream Halls from opposing countermagic when you first play it. Although I haven't tested it, blue also has a pre-emptive option in the form of Decree of Silence. Cheap under Dream Halls, it effectively shuts down spells from your opponent, especially if you play more than one.
A particularly powerful spell to play is Mind's Desire. It does the same trick as Dream Halls, but in a very different way. Unlike Dream Halls (now), Mind's Desire is restricted in Vintage. But a single copy can be enough. With Dream Halls powering out card-drawing for free, you'll already be playing lots of spells. Conclude with Mind's Desire and that should be the end of the game. It shrugs off countermagic and will make every spell left in your library accessible for free (no card-disadvantage, unlike Dream Halls). Given this, an easy kill condition to use in the deck would be Brain Freeze. Even if you can't get Mind's Desire, a large Brain Freeze followed by Ancestral Recall or Opportunity will deck your opponent. In tournament play, this is somewhat risky. Opponents could maindeck or sideboard Gaea's Blessing and immunize themselves against your kill condition. Because of this, while testing a Vintage Dream Halls deck, I cut both copies of Brain Freeze and began trying to run Reminisce and Denying Wind instead. The idea is to Denying Wind countermagic out of the opponent's library so that Reminisce and Timetwister can infinitely loop with each other to replay Denying Wind over and over until the opponent has no cards left. If both Timetwister and Reminisce end up in the graveyard, Time Spiral can give me another chance. It seems to work, although I'll probably go with something simpler.
With Painter's Servant in play, color is no longer an issue. Even lands can be pitched to play whatever spells you'd like This makes Dream Halls much more powerful, but the effect is still just as symmetrical. The opponent will find it just as easy to play spells. Meanwhile, your deck without both Dream Halls and Painter's Servant in play will probably find it quite difficult to cast spells. As such, I'd consider a mono-blue Dream Halls deck more viable than a strategy relying on getting another card out. But that's for tournament play and for decks that are trying to push quick combo kills. If you're just trying to use Dream Halls to power out your favorite cards, using it in tandem with Painter's Servant (or the less practical Celestial Dawn) could be an excellent way to put whatever expensive spells you can imagine into play. Just keep in mind that it will let your opponents do the same.
Speaking of expensive non-blue cards, one that goes particularly well with Dream Halls is Recycle (or its younger brother, Null Profusion). It works especially well in multiples and will let you easily run through your deck. The crazy, expensive spells you use to finish the job are up to you.